Wednesday, April 30, 2014


The New Orleans poor have always lived by the hustle, eking out inadequate wages and suffering chronic underemployment with off-the-books make­shifts in the underground economy. -- Lawrence N.Powell

No Street Vending

It's "Clean Zone" season out by the Fair Grounds.
Another Jazz Fest, another stern warning from City Hall for local entrepreneurs looking to cash in by selling parking spots, souvenirs or other goods.

Over the past few years, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration has taken a strict approach during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, enforcing laws that say anyone wanting to operate a parking lot on commercially zoned property must get a permit.

A city-issued reminder this week reiterated that position and also warned that police will be “aggressively” enforcing rules against transient vendors selling goods from cars or trucks within the festival’s “clean zone,” a wedge of territory bounded by Florida Avenue, North Broad Street, Esplanade Avenue and Bayou St. John. Signs have appeared near the Fair Grounds reminding would-be hawkers about the rules.
If you read NOLA.com on a regular basis, you'd get the impression that "Entrepreneur Week" lasts for at least six months out of the year.  It must finally be over.  This city of start-ups sure does enjoy sending mixed signals.

As Mominem notes in a comment to a previous post, New Orleans has a reputation for flexibility regarding "gray market" activity. Informal vendors have sold homemade art, crafts, food, hucklebucks, etc. out of their own homes or carts for decades while facing occasional but often light official restriction.

Long before the laws governing gourmet food trucks became a newsworthy controversy, mobile food vendors like this one were frequently found at or near the city's outdoor festivals, second lines, or Mardi Gras parades.

Mr. Tasty's

At Mardi Gras 2006, the pirate seen here acquired her bottle of pink wine from the smugglers pictured just over her shoulder in the background.

Pirate booze

From time to time there are efforts to rein some of this stuff in.

Here are some guys being cited for unlicensed beverage sales outside of the Superdome last year in accordance with a stepped up enforcement effort.

Vendor Enforcement

I took a bike ride through the "Clean Zone" Sunday afternoon.  There were the usual offerings of "Ice Cold Water One Dollar" available but not much other street vending in evidence.  I did happen upon a "for display purposes only" set up of handicraft handbags.  Also there was a guy with a cart full of goofy political paraphernalia including even a "Cliven Bundy for President" T-Shirt.  It's hard to imagine much of that was selling but you never know.

Wacky political stuff

Anyway, so in keeping with the entrepreneurial spirit that makes our city so great, I'm pitching some ideas for local TV production.  Everyone knows the Louisiana film tax credit is the surest get-rich-quick scheme going around here these days.. if you can stay out of jail, that is. Or until the interstate grifting competition finally catches up with Louisiana which could start happening any day now.

In the meantime we need to get these ideas up and available for immediate financing.

1) Name That Decibel.  Contestants walk the first eight blocks of Bourbon Street and guess the loudness at which they are hearing various house bands perform Don't Stop Believin' along the way.  Hosted by Drew Ward.

2) Amazing Race Uptown Teams have to perform a variety of tasks that require them to traverse the many Uptown construction zones. The degree of difficulty increases as afternoon thunderstorms begin to flood the side street detours.

Points may be awarded for ingenuity. For example last weekend our familiar four year old neighborhood sinkhole was finally filled in.

Hole full

As you can probably tell, this wasn't accomplished through any official city agency. Instead, in keeping with the NOLA hustlin' tradition of improvisation, a free acting community fellow arrived and shoveled dirt into it from the back of an El Camino.

Fixing a hole

I'm not sure what's next for the sinkhole.  I've thought about putting up a Maypole there but Menckles  has already planted some sunflower seeds so we'll have to wait to see if those come in before anything else happens.

3) Project Fairgrounds Tim Gunn stands at the gate and scrutinizes Jazzfest attendees' outfits for controversial themes.
On Saturday (April 26), Greenpeace flew a banner over the New Orleans Jazz Fest with a message aimed at Shell, the festival's sponsor: "Love Jazz Fest; Hate Oil Spills." For 30 minutes, until several NOPD officers escorted the Greenpeace members out, the protest took place inside the gates.
Extra points deducted for protesters who don't even take the time to match their complaint to the venue.
The group passed out paper fans and post cards criticizing Shell's efforts to drill in the arctic. Two of them held Jazz Fest-style poles that featured half a polar bear's face and half of Shell's logo with a devil's horn added.
A dying Louisiana coastline and its inhabitants  might find that a little tacky.

Any contestant singled out by Gunn will be given a sun hat, Hawaiian shirt, and sandals to wear for the rest of the day.

4) Park That Bike Simple concept.  Much harder than you may think, though.


So those are my TV hustles. If you're in for financing any of these let me know and I'll get you in touch with my agent Kevin Houser.

1 comment:

Clay said...

Taking a class with Larry Powell was cool. You would have loved it.